Douglas sat quietly in the cab, his listless body shuddering to the relentless rhythm of the truck’s engine. Astonishingly large seagulls swarmed and flowed around the diesel heavyweight as it ambled steadily onwards across the wasteland to disgorge another bellyful of refuse. This activity compelled the birds to flock in huge numbers, bickering and scavenging, each one desperate to be the first to find something edible amongst the fresh delivery before the ever-present bulldozers closed in on the pile.
Douglas felt odd in this place – it was such an alien environment compared to the world outside. Stripped of all plant life, it was bleak and violently damaged. The hole at the centre was vast in size; wide enough to accommodate a football pitch and deep enough to bury a town hall. It would take about eight months to fill – at least that was the calculation Douglas had made based on his observations.
The continual stream of trucks arriving from all over the county ensured that the tip line never ceased inching forward. Each one could carry a six tonne load or more and most crews made several visits a day. While the truck Douglas occupied rocked its way over the pitted terrain for the second time that morning, he imagined how a stop-frame film shot from the air, and compiled over a period of months, would show the waste spiral its way around the pit, like a snake arriving home to fill its nest.
Douglas was surprised to see that since the last time the agency had called him in to work on the bins, just a month earlier, a new 10-foot thick layer had been started within the hole. For some unknown reason, he felt a little upset about it, but understood that even this would soon vanish beneath the final coil and, at that point, the season’s advertisements for computers, household appliances and Christmas gifts would be superseded by the remnants of Easter. Douglas still struggled with the knowledge that when his truck made its way towards the tip line, it was supported by nothing more substantial than yesterday’s garbage.
The hole’s appetite was insatiable and eclectic in the extreme. It consumed almost every substance known to human kind, but the more obviously abundant materials it stomached were paper, food, rubble, clothing, carpets, car tyres, crushed beds and glossy magazines. Most disturbingly, gaily coloured children’s toys were often visible at the surface where the wheels of the restless trucks and bulldozers repeatedly crushed them into the dirt. It was shocking to see for the first time, but it had to be understood that, in the tip, nothing retained the purpose it once served, however finely constructed or conceived the object appeared and no matter what great things it had accomplished during useful service. All things were equal in that particular grave.
As the lorry neared the edge, Douglas looked down through the cab widow to the sodden earth, which was intermittently obscured from view by the frantic gulls. Driven by the icy wind, glossy fliers flapped their unburied edges in a last-ditch effort to sell their wares before the rain-drenched soil finally sucked them down. Even at that stage, the girl from a ‘20% off frozen meat!’ advertisement was smiling at Douglas from under her mud negligee. To him, she poignantly illustrated the randomness of it all.
Collecting the bags gave Douglas something to occupy his mind, but when the compactor was full and the crew began one of several hour-long round trips to the hole and back, avoiding various weak bridges and narrow passes, he searched for other ideas to chew on. One this particular occasion, he found himself attempting to calculate the rough probability of the frozen meat advert being visible as part of the pit’s surface montage, instead of some other piece of detritus. He quickly concluded that only by entering into a computer database every nugget of collectable information relating to society, would he be able to predict what a load might contain. Nevertheless, the trundle across the back of the snake was frustratingly slow, so Douglas decided he may as well follow through some variables to take his mind off it.
He reasoned that the advertisement had had a wide distribution, probably as a supplement in the local paper, and that it would have ended up in a great many waste sacks. However, the really difficult thing to quantify was the probability of the frozen-meat girl being in his line of view at that particular moment in time. She was printed on just one 40gram sheet of paper and the cab could have taken any direction down to the tip edge. Douglas’ began wrestling with the problem, but his concentration was repeatedly broken by the background chat on the radio and from the other workers in the cab. As he gazed out of the window in an effort to reconnect with the subject, his attention was drawn to a pair of flowery flannel knickers on which the truck’s front wheel finally came to rest. “Why knickers? Why flowers?” he thought, “Why not a chocolate wrapper instead? What sort of chocolate wrapper?”
Moments later, the knickers were joined by Douglas’s apple core, cellophane sandwich wrapping and chocolate bar packaging, all delivered, without the middle man, direct from his upturned packed-lunch box onto the ground. The journey to the tip was the ideal time for the loaders, baggers and driver to wolf down some food, although such niceties as hand washing were impossible to observe. Douglas certainly wasn’t one for dropping litter, but taking it home to put in the bin seemed absurd.
While the lorry was stationary at the tipping edge, its container slowly being angled up by two powerful hydraulic arms, the crew took the opportunity to hop out and have a piss on the down-wind side of the lorry, using it as a sort of makeshift urinal. This was a perfectly reasonable action considering that there were few public toilets available anywhere en-route, but Douglas still felt somewhat exposed, unzipping in the middle of the barren wasteland while other crews came and went all around. It also seemed a little disrespectful to the faithful old truck, but as Douglas drenched some mangled steel wire and a bundle of catalogues, he reassured himself that there really was no alternative. He paused a moment longer to watch the archaeological goldmine absorb the last of his urine puddle, but knew it was far too late to become sentimental.
He hadn’t figured out what the regular bin men thought about it all, but they generally seemed to have accepted the job for what it was, got it done, and then went home to do the things they enjoyed.
Returning to his seat in the warm cab, Douglas felt tired. For sure, the hard outdoor work and early mornings were good for the soul and health, but he was haunted by his ever active mind trying to fit some more pieces of his life into place. The conclusions he came to about his past were a constant distraction from the present, while worries about the future made things even worse.
‘I must live for now, for the moment,’ he said to himself as he looked up, following the path of a squawking sea-gull flapping its way into the sky to avoid being bulldozed. However, the truth of existence revealed by the tip, and Douglas’ own ponderings on life, were not nearly as distracting as the gigantic intergalactic space cruiser which had caught his eye as he casually observed the disgruntled bird’s flight.
‘That’s rather unusual!’ thought Douglas gazing up at the belly of the hovering alien space craft. As with most of Douglas’s well considered statements, he was correct.
Inside the spectacularly sophisticated space craft, a selection of important and ridiculous looking alien beings were preparing the final report summary details of the science project they had been working on for the past five Earth years. The chief science officer, who resembled a marshmallow teapot, sat back and stared at his masterpiece. “At last,” he proudly announced to his team, “the result of years of painstaking research – the culmination of countless hours of study – lies before us in these pages.”
In a relatively short time for intergalactic life-form research, the team had managed to decipher the basic syntax of, what they considered to be, the planet’s most evolved species, and succeeded in unravelling the rudiments of its civilisation and culture. It was a proud moment for all concerned, and a sad one too, for now it was time to leave. The report summary was titled ‘Earth Evolution Progress Report’. It said:
We, the Boilpot research team, are proud to present this painstakingly researched document to the scientific community of Kettleon. We believe that we have satisfactorily laid the all-important groundwork on which future research into the fascinating inhabitants of this curious sphere will be based. The importance of this work is incalculable at present, but we hope that, given time, it will rightly come to be regarded as being of the utmost historic and scientific value.
For approximately 1600 revolutions of the Earth, we have been monitoring the habits, activities and lifestyle of the sphere’s dominant species. This species, which calls itself ‘human beings,’ is by far the most developed and socially powerful on the planate and so, while there are other intriguing and impressive life forms worthy of future study, we have focussed the majority of our energy and time on this one. Through our research and investigation into the species’ most intimate activities, our study has enabled us to gain a basic understanding of its civilisations, cultures and habits.
1. The Burrowing Issue
Contrary to their own laughably foolish notions (some irrelevant tosh about tree-dwelling apes), we have established beyond doubt that humans are burrowers in evolutionary origin. Indeed, we conducted a series of minor supplementary studies on a sample of the planet’s other inhabitants, particularly those displaying a similar genetic ancestral heritage, and found irrefutable confirmation of our brilliant hypothesis.
Early on in our study, we noticed how humans show a particular interest in killing burrowing creatures, and it is this curiously ‘prejudiced’ behaviour that led us to form our extraordinary conclusions about what truly motivates them.
In short, we are certain that a psychological resentment of the primitive nature of burrowers has developed from the human desire to ‘progress’ and therefore distance themselves from their past. This past, so poignantly illustrated by the lifestyle of other burrowers who are located further back in the evolutionary chain, is not something their subconscious can easily accept. Consequently, humans are only too happy to terminate burrowers at the drop of a lid. Indeed, it is a profound and reoccurring trait of humans to deny their past and destroy anything reminding them of their roots. Thus, the humans’ burrowing relatives are terminated, eaten, hung on walls or simply hunted for pleasure.
The key finding of our research is that humans have developed their complex civilisation based solely on the rejection of this aspect of their evolutionary lineage. As outlined above, the basic aspiration of humans is to progress and their progression is achieved by rejecting the old and embracing the new. Further to that, we now understand that hole digging has come to represent ‘the old’, whereas ‘the new’ is symbolized by a process of hole filling. To put it another way, the activity of filling holes is the symbolic and ritualistic denial, rejection and sacrifice of the old.
And so it would seem that the central and ultimate goal for the human civilisation is to fill holes, the irony being that, in order for that to be possible on a large scale, they have no choice but to actively dig holes first. Indeed, digging has become an acceptable activity when done for the sole purpose of providing something that can be filled back in afterwards. The contrasting activities of digging and filling, when symbiotically linked, create a state of equilibrium, and on the foundation provided by this status quo, the species has built its society.
2. Systems of Hole-Filling
Understanding the fascinating psychology of hole-filling is one thing, but it is the bizarre and vastly complex systems developed to validate the ritual which have intrigued us so greatly and prolonged our study. Indeed, it would seem that there are virtually no limits to the inventiveness of humans when it comes to devising methods of hole-filling. It is probable that the diverse and sophisticated processes have increased in complexity in direct proportion to the species’ evolving intelligence. To wit, the bigger the brain, the greater the need to justify hole filling by way of a internally logical system. It is therefore almost certain that any awareness of the actual futility and pointlessness of their activity would be the equivalent to a total loss of faith, and so it is essential to humans that they stave off comprehension of the stark reality of existence by creating meaning through ever more complex ritual activities. The burrowing roots are literally ‘buried’ under the cloak of civilisation.
For everyday existence the species requires very little in the way of sustenance, however, the doctrine of society promotes excessive consumption, ensuring the continued and escalating use of a vast number of manufactured appliances which can be tossed into holes. The use of these appliances has become as fundamental to their lives as breathing. And so it is, under the guise of ‘human necessity’, excessive production provides the raw material for hole-filling.
But it is not just the results of the process which are used in holes: the process itself, if designed in the right way, actually becomes the greatest contributor. Thus, objects once crafted by individuals using very few tools are now the product of complicated industrial processes. A simple metal object produced on a single machine, for example, will still require hundreds of supporting industries, simply because the machine itself is inevitably made up of a vast number of parts, formed from earthly materials such as plastic, rubber, steel, aluminium and possibly wood, to name but a few. In turn, all of these raw materials require similar waste-producing industries to mine or harvest them, and this cannot be achieved without the aid of yet more elaborate machinery. In short, every single component owes its existence to the labouring of another device that is powered by electricity, cooled by water, lubricated by oil, and balanced by hydraulics. And the factories in which the objects are born do not create themselves – their construction is accomplished using similar factories and machinery.
If the chain is looked at as a whole, we see that hundreds of factories and thousands of machines are involved in the manufacture of one single mundane object, collectively producing vast quantities of waste. Thus, any buyer of a product created in this way, no matter how small it is, can rest assured that they are contributing to the production of masses of hole-filling matter.
Even food, the most fundamental commodity of all, is now almost exclusively a factory product. At one time most of the ingredients for practically every meal would have been grown by individuals using their own area of allotted land. Mass production has led to a system whereby the growing of each raw ingredient is done discretely on a colossal scale. Once processed, these ingredients are transported to factories where they are combined as recipes and processed yet again using machines similar to those described above, before finally being packaged on another assembly. The packaging itself is excessive and immediately redundant, providing humans with plenty of satisfying personal waste to immediately throw away. But even before they can buy the stuff, it has to be transported, sometimes great distances, to outlets called supermarkets. Of course, neither the outlets nor modes of transport could exist without equally huge industries to create them.
3. A Day in the Life
Let us now look at a day in the life of a typical human to gain an insight into the way some of these systems work and how they are given justification within society.
A human will awake from rest when the local star begins to illuminates their portion of the planate, the rest having taken place in a hole-type thing called a ‘room’ which is usually part of a collection of other rooms called a ‘house’. To all intents and purposes, a house is a surrogate burrow. After waking, they will visit a sub-section called the bathroom where they excrete their bodily waste into a hole-like container called a water-closet. Here we observe that the human’s first reaction after gaining consciousness is to fill a hole, thereby performing, what appears to be, a systematic, quasi-religious gesture. Once the water-closet is finished with, an elaborate bodily grooming procedure is undertaken involvement many manufactured products. The humans then dress themselves with clothes in preparation for the day ahead. The functions of these so-called clothes are complex, and are to do with protection, warmth and communication. However, they are also production-intensive and that makes them important agents in the hole-filling process. Unlike us, these humans have a concept called fashion, whereby it becomes socially unacceptable to wear clothes with an out-of-date design. The style and cut of these garments are changed far in advance of the end of their useful life, ensuring a speedy turnover of otherwise perfectly serviceable robes, as dissatisfied humans reject them as being out-of-vogue.
The same concept of fashion is applied to numerous other household objects, once again, ensuring they’re redundant as soon a possible and long before they actually become unfit for purpose. All through the corridors (tunnels) of the houses (warrens) there is an abundance of highly-engineered objects, serving both practical and ornamental purposes. The perceived necessity of said objects provides countless hole filling industries with a pseudo-essential purpose.
After dressing, a human will commence the eating of breakfast with the rest of its clan. This communal ritual has extended the basic need for food into a blatant hole filling exercise, as the assembled house dwellers shovel the nutrients into their gaping mouths as if there is no tomorrow.
The next part of the day is spent outside the house which, on a subconscious level, is a cause of great insecurity for a creature of burrowing origins. As a direct consequence, the species has developed things called cars which envelope their bodies and transport them at great speed away from possible danger, providing each individual with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and confidence in the process. Subsequently, many humans worship these mobile sanctuaries, often conducting their mating rituals in them and, as observed on rare occasions, with them! However, the more intimate details of these acts are too complex to probe into here.
Having travelled in their cars the humans arrive at work where they undertake the process of exchanging labour for reward. All humans are encouraged to chase what is known as ‘success’ through work, and it is in connection with this phenomena that we observe the most amusing and ironic hole-filling behaviour.
Humans need to be successful in work to earn lots of money; money being the currency by which human labour is most commonly rewarded. To earn lots of money they need a successful business. To have a business which achieves success, much production is needed, and so the greater number of humans the producer can persuade to buy their products, the better sales and success they will have. However, it is necessary to foster a culture whereby consumption is valued above all else, if businesses of this nature can be successful. By its values, those who have bought the most, eaten the most or have purchased products requiring the most elaborate manufacture, are admired and worshipped within society and are said to have got to the ‘top of the pile’ (note how a pile is the inverse of a hole).
To maintain a high level of consumption a human will need a lot of money, and the best way to obtain this is to participate in the production, or encourage the sale of a lot of consumable products. In short, a human sells products to get money, enabling them to buy more products! To put it another way, those producing hole-filling waste, and those encouraging its production through their excessive purchases, are given the incentive to continue by the ‘consumer’ values of society.
Towards the end of the day when work is finished, humans will often take part in a ‘sport’. Yet again, many of these activities, superficially designed to offer humans entertainment and recreation, display very definite hole-filling symbolism.
Inside warren-like buildings humans play a game called snooker. The game takes place on a table with six holes and a number of near-hole-size balls. The task is to knock the balls into the holes scoring points through various ball-potting combinations. To make this even more difficult, a pointed stick is used. Once a snooker game has finished, the humans will immediately remove the balls from the pockets and start the rigmarole of potting all over again, clearly unable to tolerate the reality of their evolutionary heritage suggested by the six gaping holes. Variations on this theme include golf (hitting a ball across a field to fill some holes), basketball (throwing a ball into a wall-mounted hole), and football.
Indeed, the game of football is a most scientifically exciting example of the sport scenario. Every community of humans, however small, is represented by a team of footballers who compete with others. This model is then repeated on a massive scale, to the extent that populations comprising millions of humans are represented by an elite team of their own. In all instances, however, the game is played outdoors on a large patch of land where the two sets of players battle each other. Again, the aim is to put a ball in a hole, however, on this occasion the hole is represented by an upright rectangle called a goal, through which the ball must pass after being kicked by the players. Each team has its own goal to defend whilst attempting to attack that of the opposition. The game is often fraught with tension, the winners being the ones who hole the ball the most times.
Like many sports, football is amongst the most effective tools humans have for encouraging competitive hole filling, so as a consequence, much praise is bestowed upon those who manage to fill holes against the toughest competition. The most important events are held in huge stadiums, watched by thousands of spectators, and broadcast to millions using a primitive communications network. Passionate team supporters usually swear a lifelong allegiance, such is the grotesque and perverted desire to see holes filled and the past buried.
6. Non-sporting Recreation
After a sporting activity, players and spectators alike will often visit a thing called a ‘pub’. In these communal burrows humans gather and consume to excess, often in competition with one another. The substances taken are rarely consumed out of a need for sustainment, and contain chemicals which are moderately poisonous. The human habit of excessive eating and drinking has been touched upon earlier on in this fascinating document, however, the deliberate intake of toxins needs some further explanation.
The painful reality for an individual who has not been excessive or who has not contributed much hole filling fodder can usually be thoroughly numbed by the intake of said toxins. In other words, the poisons help the individual forget their worries, which will almost certainly be something to do with their hole-filling inadequacies.
In the pub, the low achiever is able to become as excessive as their more successful contemporaries by theatrically demonstrating their ability to consume. If they are particularly lucky, the poisons in the drink will help them vomit up their daily food and liquid intake in a most wasteful, extravagant and excessive way, after which they may even find it possible to consume even more food and toxins, replacing those they have just proudly expelled.
7. Concluding the Process
As we’ve explained, every aspect of a human’s daily life is designed to create as much waste as is physically possible, but the story does not end there, for there is also the matter of what becomes of it all. Indeed, now we have briefly (and brilliantly) deconstructed the systems at play, its time to reveal how these are ultimately satisfied within society.
Once a week, each reproductive grouping, or family, displays its waste in the street outside their house, proud of how much they have produced and contributed to the national hole-filling effort. These waste packages are triumphantly collected by spectacularly decorated, clanking chariots (called refuse trucks), and ritualistically transported to a place where the process is officially validated.
In a limited number of special sites all over the planate, massive holes are dug. Often situated outside the main communities, these holes are almost certainly of the greatest spiritual significance. As such, only a privileged few are ever allowed on site and rarely do others dare visit. The sacred sites are usually ring fenced by tall barriers, breached only by a single heavily-guarded gateway, and these checkpoints let in nothing other than the fully-laden waste transporters.
As soon as the digging of a hole is complete, the process of filling it begins in earnest via the dumping of waste by the chariots. Conversely, the instant a hole is filled, another is dug close by within the holy compound. Thus, through this astonishing display of digging and filling, we witness this highly complex civilisation attain equilibrium.
To complete our summary, we’d like to offer an anecdote, by recounting a popular folk story which humans use to pass on their social values to the young. It speaks of a place where a large quantity of liquid is higher than the land and is only held back against the gravitational pull of the orbiting moon by a sizeable dam. One day a child observes sea water flowing through a tiny hole in the dam and bravely plugs it with his finger, thereby preventing the leak from getting worse until help arrives. This story is a clear indication of the fear humans have of what holes symbolise: the idea that by allowing one to remain unfilled, the species may regress back to the primitive past from which they have evolved. Subconsciously the dam represents production, and so, with that system intact, they freely move into the future.
The final and, dare I say, most poignant gesture, is made when the individual finally dies. Their last act is to fill a hole – with themselves. Literally and symbolically, the body of the dead is buried in a hole of its own.
For the very last time, the chief science officer gazed down from the space craft at the wondrous refuse lorry below and, overcome with emotion, let a little jet of steam squirt from his elegant nose. On the medium-range scanner he studied a close up image of Douglas seated in the lorry cab. “I am probably looking at one of the most privileged and important members of this species,” he whispered to himself, “and to think, the specimen is almost certainly stupidly unaware of the real sociological reasons governing this process he is an integral part of!” The visitor abruptly burst out laughing and his teapot head shuddered like jelly.
It certainly was an elaborate way to fill a hole, but he had to admit, it was impressive. After all, the system had managed to involve every member of the species in every detail of their day-to-day existence. There were some things which had remained a mystery to him though – the game of squash, for example – however, he felt so happy that he had unravelled the bizarre activities of the species which had intrigued him for so long, that small inconsistent details were not going to weigh too heavily on his mind. Such anomalies he was happy to overlook, and so he simply buried the evidence.
Having dropped its load, the lorry, carrying Douglas and the rest of the men, chugged its way steadily up the incline and out of the pit. At the weighing point the amount of dumped waste was calculated from the net weight of the lorry and the paperwork was signed by the crew member closest the door. As they moved out onto the streets to start the final round of the day, Derek the driver initiated yet another discussion about the lottery and his possible inheritance of an aunt’s West End terraced house. However, Douglas could not concentrate on the conversation. After all, he had just seen an intergalactic space cruiser hovering above a tip.
The Tip was written by Thomas James Flint